Tricks of the trade with Nish Rowe
The Manchester-born, East London-based tattoo artist, DJ, model and creative director discusses the beauty and political, therapeutic and healing aspects of their art.
THE FACE has teamed up with vape brand Vuse for Making Your Mark, a two-part series exploring and celebrating the work of talented creatives who make their own rules. Celebrating diversity and creativity, we’re speaking to artists from across the globe to find out all about their process, inspiration, and what they get up to in their downtime. Vuse is championing emerging talent, supporting artists and encouraging them to push the boundaries within the creative community.
All creative endeavours start with the desire to make an impact. Whether you’re bringing people together through music or making powerful images, it all begins with that initial spark of inspiration. Nish Rowe, who knows a thing or two about making marks – mostly on the skin of their many adoring clients!
Going way beyond art, tattooing is a means of connecting your body and spirit. Because after all, art is only in the eye of the beholder. Tattooing, though, goes skin deep.
So says Nish Rowe, a full-time tattoo artist, DJ, model and creative director. Originally from Manchester, and now tattooing in East London, they may have only been practising for three years, but their passionate following, both IRL and URL, and the power and impact of their wide-ranging designs speak for themselves.
The best way to describe their style is eclectic, a striking combination of well-researched historical multicultural iconography, Black culture and the everyday (flowers, faces, insects), catering to all skin tones. Designs range from gothic script to bold illustrative portraits. Most importantly Rowe’s work pulls from their biggest inspiration: themselves.
Despite a long-held passion for multiple art forms and practices – including fashion, design, sculpture and computer science – Rowe’s route into tattooing wasn’t straightforward: they enrolled at university twice and dropped out twice. Only then did Rowe decide to try their hand at tattooing. And they’ve never looked back.
Was quitting uni – twice – a failure? No, it was simply a confident change in direction.
That ethos carries through in all their inkwork, their view being that every life experience has a purpose – a purpose that feeds into their art. From the post-apocalyptic, mechanical concept drawings inspired by their coding days to their love of historical African sculpture, it’s all priceless inspiration for their tattoo designs. As they put it: “All of it’s played a part in my style and where I’ve ended up.”
In Rowe’s view, “art is an expression of the spirit.” So the possibilities for skin-art to tap into multiple aspects of an individual are endless. “I see it as a stream of consciousness. Whether it’s through music or something visual, it’s a unique stamp as to how you think, how you feel. You’re supposed to just allow it to flow and be in a certain headspace.”
Tattooing, they add, also acts as a way to explore vulnerabilities and alleviate shame.
“My first tattoo was when I was 21 and it was actually on my face. I didn’t want to compromise the art with fear of what society may think, or what I may think or fear for myself.” This process, especially for marginalised people, Rowe feels, is a way to take back ownership of your body. “It forced me to know myself better, and be able to explain my reasoning.”
Unafraid to stay curious and inquisitive about the world around them, Nish Rowe finds the beauty in the ordinary, tapping into the political, therapeutic or healing aspects of their practice and channelling equanimity into their art.
“Balance,” they conclude, “is the key to absolutely everything.” Tattoo your soul.
Watch Making Your Mark with Nish Rowe, and check out Vuse on Instagram.
Vuse contains nicotine and is addictive. 18+ only
Director: Millie Gray
Producer: Rose Darkins
Associate Creative Director: Clara Goodger
DOP: Henry Lockyer
1ST AC: Florence Skinner
Sound: Olly Jennings
Stylist: Hollie Williamson
Makeup: Rebecca Davenport
Driver: Michael Hall
Grade: John Alexander Lowe
Sound design and Mix: Guy Chase
Music composition: Cal Swingler
GFX: Georgia Mae Skelding